Unlike most, Alexandria resident and Sauk Centre reading teacher Allison Bakkum said COVID-19 has helped her accomplish her dreams.
She wrote the majority of her first children’s book three years ago and tried the traditional publishing route, but after hearing about self-publishing, decided it would make more financial sense. So Bakkum immersed herself in everything related to becoming an independent author including publishing, marketing, writing, editing, beta test reading and analytics.
“It’s mind-blowing,” Bakkum said. “It’s so much more than writing the words and drawing the pictures.”
During this process, she was introduced to Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform for creative endeavors. Through this medium, Bakkum said people have the option of preordering her book at a discount and seeing the pages before receiving the product. There are reward tier options, so she added a question guide for any fellow teachers who choose to preorder.
Bakkum is raising money for publishing because her book will be sent overseas for printing as a cheaper alternative to the traditional route she tried before.
She recruited Maryland-based illustrator George Sweetland because she loved his artistic style. Bakkum described it as “not too cartoon-y, not super cheesy.”
She also connected with a mentor from New Jersey, who has self-published six books.
“COVID’s been good for me,” Bakkum said. “I’m here by myself, and I love it. It’s been a really good fit.”
The dream of writing
Bakkum said she’s always wanted to be an author.
Her son is almost 10 years old now, but she’s been reading to him since she was pregnant. The combination of that and being a reading teacher continued to grow her desire to write. Getting her hands on a few picture books and being inspired by other authors sparked that interest even more.
“Once you’re kind of in that arena, I think things just start to fall into place,” she said. “I can’t tell you one teacher who probably hasn’t thought about writing a book, so I just did it.”
Her first book, “My Mud Kitchen is RAD,” is about two characters who are bored on a rainy day. One character convinces the other to go outside in the rain and play in their mud kitchen.
Bakkum’s son Flynn went to Butterfly Hill Nature Preschool in Alexandria, and she said she was inspired by the kitchen they had.
After grabbing some palettes from Sherwin-Williams Paint Store, finding some online resources, and landing a free sink from Habitat for Humanity, she built her son his own mud kitchen.
“My Mud Kitchen is RAD” will be printed in two different versions. One will have a traditional font, and the other will feature OpenDyslexic font. This typeface is designed to reduce some common symptoms of dyslexia.
“I just decided it would be really beneficial for kids who exhibit characteristics of dyslexia to have this special font,” she said. “To at least even have it published is a big deal in the dyslexia community because it’s recognizing that there’s an issue.”
Bakkum said she’s both professionally and personally an advocate because she specializes in helping children with dyslexia as a reading teacher and her son has dyslexia.
Around one out of every five people in the world has symptoms of dyslexia, according to the International Dyslexia Foundation. The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity also found that dyslexia is the most common neuro-cognitive disorder, representing between 80 and 90 percent of all those with learning disabilities.
“It’s not necessarily a reading impediment, it’s a neuroprocessing thing,” she said. “It’s the way your brain is wired.”
More about Bakkum
Prior to becoming an author, Bakkum earned her bachelor’s degree in science from Colorado State University and master’s degree in teaching from the State University of New York.
She has been in education for about a decade, and she hopes to become a “teacherpreneur” in the future.
Bakkum wants to get her summer tutoring business, Lakes Area Multisensory, up and going starting in June. Her goal is to provide structured reading help for students who are, or who exhibit characteristics of, dyslexia.
“You really put your heart and soul into it,” she said.
The Kickstarter campaign for “My Mud Kitchen is RAD” will begin Tuesday, Jan. 19. Those interested can preorder a copy of the book and receive other rewards, too. To find the link to her Kickstarter and sign up for reminders of the book's launch date, visit allisonbakkumauthor.com.